Fortuna Yamaha Team back on the right path in Catalunya. Carlos Checa gave the Fortuna Yamaha Team its best result of the 2003 season in one of the most thrilling MotoGP races since the introduction of the four-stroke championship. After a...
Fortuna Yamaha Team back on the right path in Catalunya.
Carlos Checa gave the Fortuna Yamaha Team its best result of the 2003 season in one of the most thrilling MotoGP races since the introduction of the four-stroke championship. After a 25-lap race of paint swapping action the local hero completed the Catalunya Grand Prix in fourth position - 0.068 seconds ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Shinya Nakano (d'Antin Yamaha Team). After a solid start, which placed Checa eighth on the opening lap, the Spaniard began a charge that saw him challenging the lead group within half a dozen laps - before finishing only 0.5 seconds off the podium.
At half race distance the top five podium candidates were separated by a mere 2.5 seconds, with less than five seconds covering the same number at the chequered flag, before a very unexpected conclusion. After a determined ride Italian Loris Capirossi gave the V-four Ducati its first race victory in the premier class after defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) faltered under the intense pressure of the leading pack. On lap 16 Rossi out-braked himself into turn four, running off the circuit and out of contention for the race win. The Italian rejoined in sixth before riding like a man possessed - carving through the field to finish the sixth round of the year second ahead of Sete Gibernau (Honda) and a very happy Checa.
"I finally got a good result and everything went well; the practice, the start, and the race. We've made so much progress since Mugello," beamed Checa. "As I said before, Sunday is the only thing that matters and today we did it, I was able to stay up front and find the consistency I needed to get a good result. I was close enough to fight for the podium but I couldn' t go fast in some areas. I managed to pass Nakano on the straight, though, and keep fourth position. It's the first time this year I could get a really good feeling in the race and stay there. I saw Rossi coming past but it was impossible to do anything to catch him. "We have made a lot of progress and actually changed less on the bike this weekend than before. Now that I have the confidence to stay in front I will keep the geometry I used today. This is more like my normal results, but when we have more stability with the rear in the mid-turn we can improve on this result."
Once again Fortuna Yamaha Team-mate Marco Melandri initially showed the promise that led to his 2002 GP250 World Championship title, before clutch problems plagued his efforts during the closing stages of the race. Although disappointed with the eventual result, which placed him 13th overall, Melandri was satisfied that he rode the best race possible considering the deficit. The 20-year-old featured as high as ninth, after starting the race from 14th on the grid, before the technical gremlin became a factor.
"I made a good start and the first few laps were not so bad but the rear tyre kept sliding out and it felt really nervous," said Melandri, who won the 250cc Grand Prix here last year. "On the long corners I didn't have enough traction and was spinning the rear a lot. I couldn't use full power because of the wheel spin. After seven or eight laps I seemed to have a clutch problem on top of this, and it was too difficult to do anything more. I think my set-up from this morning was better so we'll have to look at whether to use something more like that for the future."
"That was a very good result for Carlos and he has made great progress since Friday afternoon," said team director Davide Brivio. "The team, mechanics and engineers pushed themselves really hard this weekend, so this result is like a 'thank you' to them. I'd like to thank all of them for their efforts, and I hope that this is just the start. We always thought that this bike could fight in the lead group but just needed a synergy between the rider and the bike. Now we'll have to work harder than ever to improve from here.
"Marco had some problems with his clutch and we are checking it. Sometimes he feels frustrated because he wants to do more but it's most important for us to see him improving gradually. His injury has also caused him some delay and we don't want him to run before he can walk."
<pre> RESULTS 1. Loris Capirossi ITA DUCATI Marlboro Team 44'21.758 2. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA +3.075 3. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA +4.344 4. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +4.935 5. Shinya Nakano JPN d'Antin YAMAHA Team +5.003 6. Tohru Ukawa JPN Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +20.587 7. Makoto Tamada JPN Pramac HONDA +22.982 8. Alex Barros BRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +24.989 9. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol HONDA +27.159 10. Troy Bayliss AUS DUCATI Marlboro Team +30.376
13. MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +40.445
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Valentino Rossi 135 2. Sete Gibernau 88 3. Max Biaggi 85 4. Loris Capirossi 61 5. Alex Barros 54 6. Tohru Ukawa 52 7. Troy Bayliss 46 8. Shinya Nakano 44 9. Makoto Tamada 34 10. CARLOS CHECA 34
20. MARCO MELANDRI 9